High Grab fares: Consumers body calls for revamp of MyCC

PETALING JAYA: The apparent failure of the Malaysian Competition Commission (MyCC) to tackle the near monopoly of Grab Malaysia in the local ride-sharing industry and stop soaring fares shows the need for a revamp of the body, says a consumers group.

This comes as competition commissions in Asean countries such as Singapore and Vietnam have taken Grab to task by starting investigations into similar concerns of rising costs of its services.

They have mooted stern action against the company over reports of price surges of Grab services and have looked at enforcing competition laws in their respective countries. This follows Uber’s exit from Southeast Asia earlier this year.

“The issue of Grab in Singapore and (how it is being handled instead) in Malaysia shows you that MyCC is just cosmetic. Nothing more than that, but a waste of money,” Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam, Selangor (Cassa) president Dr Jacob George told FMT today.

He was referring to calls by the Singapore Competition and Consumer Commission last week to axe the country’s Uber-Grab merger after it found Grab prices had soared shortly after.

Checks by FMT earlier this week showed that some trips by Grab were relatively more expensive than rides of the same distance by other e-hailing services.

This is despite former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri having said that Grab had assured her that its takeover of Uber earlier this year would not affect fares and that the MyCC had put the company under its anti-competition watchlist some months back.

George, a former special adviser to previous premier Najib Razak, however, said no major complaints had been received by Cassa regarding the rise in Grab fares.

A spokesman for Grab yesterday attributed the higher rates to the company’s implementation of dynamic pricing, which sees prices fluctuating according to the demand and supply in high traffic areas during peak hours.

The spokesman said the recent bad weather, as well as the Ramadan and Hari Raya periods, saw an increase in demand for the service.

George also suggested outfits like the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom), MyCC, and the National Water Service Commission be lumped together as one umbrella body and parked under the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs.

He said the umbrella body should be helmed by persons with actual insight and knowledge of consumer advocacy.

“I’m calling for MyCC to be revamped, to be more proactive, and to be on the offensive. We need to question why we are setting aside allocations for public funds and utilities to fund such bodies when we should instead be looking at new commissions under a ministerial body,” he said, adding he would be more than happy to be part of this new group.

The sentiment was echoed by Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) CEO Paul Selvaraj, who said MyCC must determine if Grab was in the wrong.

However, he disagreed with George on having one umbrella body.

“We are now facing the consequences of the Uber-Grab merger. Where there were two competing forces, there is now a single entity. So there’s the issue of price manipulaton. Being a (near) monopoly is not wrong, of course, but not when it is done to profit excessively. MyCC has to look into this,” said Selvaraj when contacted.

“But I think commissions need to do their work separately as they have different functions. There is no reason for an extra layer. We just need to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to do according to the laws (that have been invested in them)”.

A MyCC corporate communications representative declined to comment on George’s comments, saying that MyCC was still monitoring the issue with Grab and the claims that there was an increase in its fares.